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32 in 32: Indianapolis Colts

In our “32 in 32” series, we are highlighting three of the most notable fantasy football players for each team, covering all 32 teams in 32 days!


Anthony Richardson (QB - Indianapolis Colts):


Richardson is one of the most intriguing prospects coming out of the 2022 NFL Draft, especially for fantasy purposes. Going 4th overall to the Colts, Richardson is undoubtedly Indianapolis’ QB of the future, but he is very raw as a prospect.


He was very average as a passer in college, going for 2,549 yards, 17 TDs, and 9 INTs in his final season at Florida, but makes up for any deficiencies on the ground (654 yards, 9 TDs). His arm talent and athleticism are off the charts but his accuracy and decision-making need a lot of work to make him a pro-level passer.


The good news for fantasy owners: he doesn’t need to be a successful passer to be productive.


We’ve seen rookie rushing QBs in recent years be extremely productive once they get on the field. In 2020, we saw Jalen Hurts produce as the QB7 as a starter. In 2018, Lamar Jackson was the QB6 as a starter. In 2017, Deshaun Watson led all QBs in PPG. The history and opportunity is there for Richardson to produce, even as a rookie, despite sub-par passing numbers.


There’s little question that he’ll likely be a top-15 fantasy QB the moment he steps onto the field, but the question then becomes: when does he start for Indianapolis?


It’s difficult to envision Indianapolis going with Gardner Minshew for a majority of the season, especially within a team that will likely struggle to find wins. If Richardson takes over within the first 5-6 weeks, I’d anticipate a top-12 finish, but that uncertainty in when he’ll start takes away the security of potentially investing in him as a QB1.


Projecting as a mid-to-high QB2 option in the 11th-13th round range, I have zero issues with grabbing a stable QB1 option and then grabbing Richardson as a high-upside QB2. I prefer him in dynasty formats, but he certainly has a large amount of upside, even as a rookie in re-draft leagues thanks to his legs.

 

Jonathan Taylor (RB - Indianapolis Colts):


For as much as 2021 saw everything go right for Jonathan Taylor en route to finishing as the top RB in fantasy football, 2022 saw nearly as much go wrong.


Some level of regression was expected from Taylor, who was coming off a 20-TD season in 2021, but nobody expected to the extent that we saw last season. Taylor fell to the RB33 in points, in part due to missing 6 full games (and nearly all of another) due to injury, but also due to a lack of touchdown production with just 4 TDs all season.


A large reason for his significant drop in production, beyond the TD regression, was a major decline in efficiency. He saw a career-low 4.5 YPC and just 0.556 fantasy points per touch (excluding TDs) in 2022, an 18% decline from the previous season. Coincidingly, he underwent ankle surgery this offseason to repair a lingering injury that likely contributed to his lack of efficiency last season.


With how much uncertainty there is in the Colts’ offense, especially in how the redzone workload will be split between Taylor and rushing QB Anthony Richardson, I find myself very torn on Taylor’s prospects heading into 2023. On one hand, it is difficult to look beyond an RB that struggled due to injuries and is a year excluded from being the top RB in fantasy, but on the other hand, there is zero certainty on his role or anticipated production. At the RB4, I’m passing on Taylor – he’s a player that I would take as the RB5/6 in the late-1st round but be very ‘tongue in cheek’ over.

 

Michael Pittman Jr. (WR - Indianapolis Colts):


Pittman had pretty much identical seasons in terms of overall production in 2021 and 2022, finishing as the WR17 in points and as the WR14 in Consistency Rating in 2021 while finishing 20th in points and 13th in CR in 2022.


The only notable change in his production was going from a balanced volume-to-efficiency source with Carson Wentz at QB in 2021 (88 catches, 1082 yards, 6 TDs) to a predominantly volume-based WR under Matt Ryan (141 targets, 99 catches, 925 yards, 4 TDs).


Traditionally, that would be an overwhelmingly positive change, transitioning to a safer source of production in volume, but with the Colts’ major change at QB, going from a typical passing QB in Matt Ryan to a rushing/dual-threat rookie in Anthony Richardson, all security goes out the window for Pittman.


There’s not a more difficult team to forecast for fantasy in 2023 than Indianapolis due to the lack of clarity at QB. If Richardson starts from Week 1, Pittman holds WR3 value at best with some upside but zero security. If Richardson doesn’t see the field until mid-season, Pittman is likely an early-season WR2 option, replicating his 2022 numbers.


Currently going as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 (WR24 on ADP, WR28 on ECR) in the mid-6th round, I am likely favoring other options with just as much upside but far greater security.

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